Ever since I was young I had been lured by the vibrancy and beating heart of the people and land of Africa. I arrived in the hustle and bustle of Johannesberg and after a quick stop over transited to Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia situated on the south west of the African continent. Descending through the cloudless sky the arid Namib Desert greeted us.
For two weeks I traversed the country of Namibia with my parents, friends and our father-son guide duo who shared their immense knowledge and passion of the animals, land and people with us. Beginning in the Namib Desert I was fascinated with the spectrum of colours of the sand. Further south-west in Sossusvlei the 150 million year old dunes towered hundreds of metres into the sky, the iron ore deposits reflected in the rich red colouring of the dunes.
Bumping our way over the corrugated roads we made it to the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the start of the aptly named Shipwreck Coast. The desert here was not as old but we were still blown away with the yellow sand scape enveloping us right down to the waters edge. Renown for its sea fog we were not disappointed and were greeted with an ominous wall of thick white cloud which embraced us in its icy tendrils. Ignorant of life in the desert we were shown the remarkable plants and animals such as the tok tokkie beetle which sticks its behind in the air and waits for the condensation of the fog to trickle down its body and into its waiting mouth to get its source of water.
Animals were not the only life in the barren desert. We drove past many villages and I was intrigued by the different cultures that called Africa home. The Himba women greeted us with enthusiasm as we drove past their road side stalls. Naked apart from a conservative cloth they were covered in animal fat and ochre. Their skin complexion, constantly protected from the sun, was beautiful and smooth and their ankles which are considered the most desirable part of the body were covered with silver anklets. As we passed through the larger towns the Herero women wore elegant Victorian style dresses in vibrant colours and patterns, with a large cow horn shaped hat to emulate the cow in acknowledgement of their cattle breeding heritage.
As we left the desert scape behind more visible plant and animal life began to appear. We spent a number of days in Etosha National Park where we had our first sightings of giraffe, elephant, zebra, different species of antelope and birds. Going out on dusk and dawn safaris we had intimate viewings of a leopard and her grown cub drinking at a water hole and stalking prey, and a close-up encounter with a pride of lions soaking up the early morning sunshine rays, bellies swollen with a recent killing.
To see wild animals in their natural habitat was a humbling experience and for me it really consolidated the need for humans to be aware of their impact on the environment. Rapid development into natural habitats, senseless annihilation of species for personal satisfaction and of course the mass consumption of fossil fuels has made unique eco-systems on the brink of collapse. Fortunately we also saw and heard of many local and regional initiatives aspiring to change current behaviour with positive results.
After close to two weeks away from the ocean we headed to the coastal city of Cape Town with one thing on our mind. Surfing. Cape Town really illustrated how incredibly generous and connected the global surfing community is. We were taken under the wing of local surf legend Bernie Shelly and her merry tribe of hard core longboard enthusiasts.Paddling out with the backdrop of the Table Mountain Range looming behind us we shared the waves with the surprisingly large community of female longboarders. It was something that Mum and I were definitely not expecting and we had the pleasure of getting to know the eclectic group of local surfers during our time in Cape Town.
Outside of the surf our new friends ensured that we were treated with the sights of the city, including the giddying cable car ride to the peak of Table Mountain, and the vibrantly coloured houses of Bo-Kaap showing us a side to South Africa’s tumultuous history. We treasured our last surf and the glowing orange fireball of an African sunset and sunrise and then made our way back to the shores of Australia.